A Collingwood resident, colloquially known as the Healthy Hiker, has committed to hiking the entirety of the Bruce Trail, from Niagara Falls to Tobermory, this spring.
Linda Murphy is embarking on the 900-kilometre trail hike as a way to raise much-needed funds and awareness for women and children who are fleeing domestic violence and building lives free from abuse.
And it’s not the first time she’s done such a feat for something bigger than herself.
In 2019, the then-57-year-old embarked on “a journey of a lifetime,” hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) — a 4,265-kilometre trek from Mexico to Canada — alone, to raise money for My Friend’s House and other shelters and violence prevention programs across Canada.
Over the course of her 171-day trek, Murphy experienced the “highest of highs and the lowest of lows.” The weather and wildlife tested her, she tripped and fell, experienced whole new levels of hunger and body ache, and even had a close encounter with a mountain lion, but she said the long stretches of loneliness were what really left her downhearted.
But Murphy was determined not to quit; she was going to hike the whole way home.
And she raised over $30,000 in the process.
After arriving back to Canada safely in September 2019, Murphy was surprised by how difficult it was to transition back to normal life. She experienced several months of overwhelm and isolation, a phenomenon common in long-distance hikers, known as post-trail depression.
“The forward motion stopped,” said Murphy. “I wasn’t going anywhere anymore. I wasn’t moving forward everyday.”
She continued to day-hike here and there, and made a plan to hike the Bruce Trail the following summer. However, six days into her journey, Murphy tripped and tore her meniscus, ending her hike in an instant. Several X-rays and MRIs later, paired with new restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, saw Murphy off the trails for several months.
When she finally started hiking again last spring, she was looking for a like-minded community. Nothing really satisfied her needs, so she decided to create one of her own. Murphy started theheathyhiker.ca as a way to share her passion with others who wanted to raise themselves from inactivity to health and happiness through hiking.
It took off. And through this process, the idea of thru-hiking the Bruce Trail started to sneak back into Murphy’s mind.
“I started thinking … It didn't work last time when I tried to do it quietly for myself, so maybe, if I make it for a bigger purpose, like I did last time, I will have better success,” Murphy said.
Inspired by her 2019 hike, she started planning — but with a much larger goal of raising $50,000 and, this time, hiking in her own backyard.
“As soon as I got the spark of ‘I can,’ it became ‘I will,’” said Murphy.
Boots on the Bruce for Shelter was born.
On May 1, Murphy will commence the 900-kilometre hike from Niagara Falls to Tobermory along Canada's oldest and longest continuous footpath.
She plans to hike six days a week for eight weeks, following the Niagara Escarpment as it gains almost 70,000 feet of elevation — which is equivalent to ascending Mt. Everest, twice! Murphy will be hiking through dense forest, along rugged cliff-edges, across streams and rivers, carrying everything she needs on her back to camp along the way, where permitted.
And she is inviting you to join her.
“I will openly admit that I found the solitude of my first wilderness trek almost devastating. It nearly broke me,” she said. “I was psychologically lost. My feet were found, but in my head I was getting lost.”
She also knows how much hiking has helped her — mentally, physically, and physiologically — over the course of her life, and she wanted to bring that joy to others as well.
“I thought, who can I teach to do this so that they can love it too,” she said. “I want people to come, but I don’t just want them to come to keep me company. I want them to come for a greater purpose too.”
She has already raised over $8,000 and is well on track to reach her goal. One hundred per cent of funds raised will go towards supporting women and children living in the local shelter, My Friend's House, and others like it across Canada, where domestic violence victims arrive every day, in search of safe haven.
“Our shelters need our assistance now, more than ever,” said Murphy.
Murphy is excited to be moving forward with something again, both physically and figuratively, and she is counting down the days until she can be back in nature.
“Hiking reminds me that we are just another element in creation. That feeling that I am part of it. No greater, no lesser,” said Murphy. “It’s a really harmonious feeling.”
For more information about Murphy’s upcoming fundraiser or to donate, visit Boots on the Bruce for Shelter.